Waiting for My Cats to Die: A Memoir

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Forty, single, deeply addicted to television, and hopelessly attached to two diabetic cats. A good time to look for the meaning of life.

When does middle age begin? Stacy Horn polled subscribers on the Echo NY website, the online chat room she founded, and got a bewildering variety of responses. She decided to explore matters on her own. Waiting For My Cats to Die is a passionately and profoundly honest look at what happens the moment you realize?—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that...

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New York, NY 2001 Hard cover New in fine dust jacket. lt shelfwear to d/j-Book Appears Unread Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 288 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Forty, single, deeply addicted to television, and hopelessly attached to two diabetic cats. A good time to look for the meaning of life.

When does middle age begin? Stacy Horn polled subscribers on the Echo NY website, the online chat room she founded, and got a bewildering variety of responses. She decided to explore matters on her own. Waiting For My Cats to Die is a passionately and profoundly honest look at what happens the moment you realize?—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that some day the credits will roll on your life. There are all those things you haven't done yet. There are all those things you have and wish you hadn't. In the battle against time, a frontal attack is the best strategy. Horn plunges into the underbrush of abandoned cemeteries and descends into crypts. She researches long-lost relatives, interviews the elderly, and learns all she can about the ghost haunting her apartment. No sign indicating the downward pull of things goes unnoticed. And yet life is irresistible. Joy, like music, rises. Fine, so death is unavoidable. There is so much to celebrate. Those diabetic cats, for starters. Here is a wonderful, quirky, refreshing memoir of hilarity and heartache: life at the mid-point of life.

About the Author:

Stacy Horn is the founder of the Echo NY website, a New York-based online community, and author of Cyberville.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Stacy Horn's dreams, fears, goals, and obsessions are no doubt shared by multitudes, but not everyone is willing to come so clean; it's Horn's insistent, unapologetic honesty about her foibles that most appeals. Reading Waiting for My Cats to Die is like having a quirky pal drop by unexpectedly on a cold and rainy day. She can't miraculously summon the sun, but she can ensure that the hours spent cooped up inside pass a bit more pleasurably.

Stacy Horn, Waiting for My Cats to Die, on being 40, single, TV-addicted. Trivial? Self-indulgent? No: a fellow human, wittily facing mortality.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Horn, a cyber-pioneer who launched Echo, a successful Gotham-based online community in the early '90s (and documented it in 1997's Cyberville), assembles haphazard thoughts on her samba drumming career, her diabetic cats, death and the single life, in this morbid but engagingly quirky memoir. Although she has no reason to believe that her own mortality is imminent (she's in her early 40s), Horn dives into the subject with all the zeal of a Baptist preacher. She discusses it online with peers and on the phone with elderly people, analyzes her cats' reactions to aging, and even explores the mystery of a ghost who supposedly haunts her apartment. That zeal is what holds this otherwise confused approach to understanding midlife together. In some chapters, Horn discusses particular aspects of her life and their deeper meaning, from what she presents as her hopelessly pudgy stomach to the fate of her business. In other sections--the book's tightest--she interviews senior citizens in an attempt to prove that wisdom comes with old age. However, what she finds through many of her conversations is that those who've lived a great deal of life often have no special secrets or knowledge to impart. The polls she conducts among Net-savvy New Yorkers on Echo add to her research and demonstrate that she's not alone in wistfully envying a 24-year-old's body. Although this work lacks focus and a clear thesis, it's a remarkably candid account of one woman's acceptance of aging, piqued with heartening moments of exhilaration. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Horn's thoroughly honest appraisal of herself and her life will so endear her to readers that many will wish they could hang out in the tiny Greenwich Village apartment with her, the cats, and the resident ghost. Indeed, to read these moving, surprisingly funny essays is to see the world through Horn's intelligent, caring, if death-obsessed, eyes and remarkably, to enjoy the view. For someone who can't stop talking about death, Horn makes a strong and lovely statement about the joy of life.
Kirkus Reviews
A middle-aged single woman living with two diabetic cats in a shabby, haunted New York apartment chronicles her anxiety, her obsession with death, and the unending failures that have plagued her personal and professional life. Admitting that her first book, Cyberville (1997), did not sell well, Horn attempts to boost her self-esteem by penning these"memoirs," which focus on her thoroughly depressing life and awkward personality. Just over 40 years old, she has forsaken any hope of meeting"the right guy," contenting herself with very occasional one-night stands. Her idea of intimacy is demonstrating the fat rolls on her tummy to a male friend. Even her business gives her no opportunity to get away from her problems. Horn is the founder of the chat room Echo.com, a place where a bunch of unhappy individuals spend hours rehashing their own misery. Unsurprisingly, many of her client"chatters" do not pay their bills, and Horn has to supplement her meager income working in a local bookstore. Her fixation on mortality drives her to search for deceased ancestors and abandoned cemeteries, and to conduct interviews in old-age homes. The investigation she launches to discover the identity of the sad ghost who was marooned in her apartment after some terrible tragedy occurred there in the '50s is perhaps the only intriguing part of her book. Otherwise this story, circumscribed by existential horror and boredom, offers no insights into the mystery of life. Its uninspiring content is hardly redeemed by Horn's feeble attempts to take her own words with a grain of salt. Ill at ease with herself, Horn imparts this uneasiness to her narrative and her audience. Dubious entertainment best left unread,exceptby those who need to compare themselves with other ne'er-do-wells in order to feel better about their own predicament.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312266929
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1901
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 8.58 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Stacy Horn is the founder of ECHO, a New York-based online community, and author of Cyberville.

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Read an Excerpt

Waiting for My Cats to Die


I DIDN'T SEE IT COMING. One minute my future is endless, and the next minute I have a stomach and a very very short time left before I die, horribly—and I know I will. I read the peaceful-death-fantasy-shattering accounts in Sherwin B. Nuland's book How We Die. (It's going to be bad.) I finished it just before my fortieth birthday, which I then spent in sheer, mortal panic. Now what are you going to do, now what are you going to do, oh God oh God oh God, my thoughts ran, like a faucet turned on full blast. Then I thought, Well, there's always the rock star option, and everything was okay again. Like everyone else in the United States, and perhaps the entire Western world—not that I would know, I never go anywhere—I have fantasies about being a rock star. It would save me. It gives my panic a direction. You're going to be a rock star now. Okay. It's going to be okay. Except I don't have much of a voice, I can't play the guitar,the essential rock star instrument, and I only took a year's worth of piano lessons. I'm so unprepared, I think. Where should I start?

Twenty years ago I was sitting on the corner in the West Village of Manhattan, where I live, where I've lived for my entire adult life, watching the Halloween parade, when a pack of drummers marched by. There had to have been over fifty of them. I stood up and started dancing in the street. I danced with them for twenty blocks straight. I didn't stop until they stopped. Now, I am not a dancing-in-the-streets kind of girl. I would like to think I am, instead of the overly self-conscious, trapped, and paralyzed person that I am, who chants, "I hate myself, I hate myself, I hate myself," every morning in the shower. Why couldn't I be more like my friend Aly's girlfriend, the pretty, vivacious, and Italian Maria? Of course, she had to be from Rome on top of everything else. I met Maria around the same time I first heard the drummers, when we were both just starting out in life. I was a small, dark troll beside the light and lovely and carefree Maria. Watching her made me ache. Maria would have danced in the streets and not thought twice about it. I would think about it. For the next twenty years I would think about it. But it wasn't the dancing I couldn't forget. It was the drumming.

Then, just before I turned forty, I read about a group of drummers called the Manhattan Samba Group. I was sure these were the same guys. I called them. Six months later I was drumming in the Halloween parade. I was so terrified about fucking up that I could have been in any city on any day, and not in front of thousands of oddly dressed people screaming and cheering us on block after block. All I could concentrate on was getting it right. Must! (drum-drum) not! (drum-drum) make! (drum-drum) any! (drum-drum) mistakes! I thought, head down, staring furiously. The angry little drummer girl. I don't think I looked up from my drum once.

The following summer I ran into Maria. I hadn't seen her for twenty years. Quit haunting me, Maria. I had met her at the beginning of my adult life; then she moved back to Rome, and now I've hit the middle and here she was again. Only now, everything about her was all wrong. There was something funny about her mouth. She carried herself like she was still vivacious, but it was as if someone had thrown a blanket over her head. She was muffled. What had been charming in a twenty-year-old was just a little bit unsettling in a forty-year-old who wasn't pulling it off anymore. I fled. I couldn't talk to her. When I was twenty I couldn't talk to her because all I could think about was what a loser I was. I couldn't talk to her when I was forty because she was still supposed to be the life of the party and she wasn't. There was something funny about her mouth. It was the first time I could remember staring mortality in the face, and okay, I'd rather feel like a loser.

So now I'm a regular member of the Manhattan Samba Group. We drum every Saturday night at SOB's (Sounds of Brazil) from two to four o-fucking-clock in the morning, which makes Sunday a total waste of a day for me. I don't care. I never really liked Sundays anyway. They're supposed to be peaceful, a day of rest. The only thing I've ever felt on Sundays is dread.

I'm not a rock star, but I'm close enough. Sometimes when we walk through the crowd, carrying our drums up to the stage, a few people raise their fists and yell "Manhattan Samba!"

WAITING FOR MY CATS TO DIE. Copyright © 2001 by Stacy Horn. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10010.

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First Chapter


This is how I live: the same way I watch TV, hitting that channel button every few seconds, relentlessly scanning. I use my television set like a slide projector. The light in my living room flashes on and off -- next, next, next. There are so few shows worth looking at too closely, or for more than a few minutes at a time. My life? No different. I don't stay on any one thing for too long. So if you get bored, you won't be bored for long.

My problems. First, I watch far too much TV. To give you an idea, this is me on Echo, the online service I founded and which is in trouble, where people log on to talk about whatever: "Why didn't someone tell me it was this late? Here I've been, reading and writing for God knows how many hours, when I could have been watching West Wing. Do me a favor? If you ever see me logged in during the important TV hours, please remind me to log off."

Second, I'm forty-two and single, and while I have pronounced myself ready to settle down, I am as far from marriage or anything like it as I was when I was sixteen. I'm lonely and yet don't make a tenth of the effort with romance that I make in every other area of my life. I work at least eight hours a day. Why don't I spend even half that looking for love? I'm a coward. No, it's because I want it this way. My friend Steven says I could be married within a year if I really wanted to be. No! It's because there are no men. It's not my fault. That's it. No, I scare them. A popular explanation with other single women I know. There's something flattering and also comforting about thinking we're intimidating. If we weren't so fabulous and strong everything would be okay. Right. Crazy people find true love. People in prison manage to get married. There must be something wrong with me. "There's something terribly wrong with me and no one will tell me what it is," I insist to my friends. I don't know. I don't know how I got here.

Third, as I said, Echo, my business, is in trouble. I don't care, really. I am sick to death of new media. I would much, much rather watch TV. It's time to move on. But how am I'm going to pay for this laptop I'm typing on? My first book didn't sell well. No one wants my novel. I don't know what I'm going to do with myself. Not one single area of my life is settled. Oh, and I have two diabetic cats: Veets and Beamers. I have to give them insulin injections every twelve hours. It's worse than that. Beamers has failing kidneys and has to get an subcutaneous drip every other day, and he also has a stomach thing I can't spell or pronounce. When I meet new people and tell them about my cat situation they ask, "Why don't you kill them?" People. Because I can lean down and sniff my cats' heads and smell earth and trees and leaves -- it's a swampy smell, the scent of eternity, the opposite of the smell of bleakness. A small comfort perhaps, after all that work, but that pretty much describes everything.

Last, I spend way too much time with death. I buy every death book, go to every death movie. Instead of tripping from club to club like the party girl I was in my youth, I spend my free time going through boxes in abandoned basements and attics and hacking my way through vines and thorns in forgotten cemeteries. I want to unearth the unremembered, because if I can resurrect these abandoned histories, I win. That's what it feels like, anyway.

This is about my midlife crisis -- or rather, my early-onset midlife crisis. I'm always rushing things. If something bad is going to happen I'd just as soon have it happen now and get it over with. I'm writing about what I'm going through while it happens because writing about it contains it and makes me feel like I'm one step ahead of the game. I'd read about midlife if I could, except there's nothing out there that doesn't feel like work to read. Gail Sheehy makes me want to hit someone. I admit I've never read her, but the idea of a book called Passages annoys me. I think life basically sucks. I'm stealing from my friend Liz Margoshes, who says, "Life sucks, essentially." (I have to give credit where credit is due.) Growing old is not so freaking wonderful. What is wrong with people? I hate Lauren Bacall and that supposedly healthy I've-earned-my-wrinkles, dammit attitude that she and others have. Lauren? What follows growing old? Death, thank you. If Gail Sheehy had named her book Passages Suck but What Are You Going To Do?, she would have had me.

I went to a conference called Hope a couple of months ago and the most hopeful thing I heard was this: "Life is hard, with a couple of moments of glory in between." I don't remember who said it, so I cannot give credit where credit is due. I only bring it up to head the well-why-don't-you-just-kill-yourself people off at the pass. (I don't know what "off at the pass" means exactly.) A few moments of glory. It's enough.

We've all read about how men act out their midlife crises over and over and over. Yeah, yeah. What do women do? This book will show you. I've started to act out in all sorts of ways. My pain will be your amusement. I'll flip through the various channels of my life, going back to some more often than others because there's more happening on these channels, or because I'm more obsessed with these channels, or because I can't help making the same mistakes over and over -- don't sleep with musicians, don't sleep with musicians -- it's my new rule, which I will ignore the second I get an opportunity, except those opportunities don't come like they used to, like the every-weekend glory of my twenties. And guess what? It only gets worse.

I don't know what I'm going to do. I'd like to give it all up and hit the road, where it is easier to pretend that everything goes on forever. I'm just waiting for my cats to die. Then I'll quit. But is quitting liberation? Or hiding? Who am I kidding. It's an excuse. Like my life is my cats' fault and I'm off the hook until they're dead. My cats must live forever.

This is hard. Growing old is hard. Plus I'm alone. And then there are my sick cats. I'm scared. But not always.

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Interviews & Essays

Looking for Links

Today I learned that I'm going to die on August 15, 2035. According to a web site called The Death Clock, a couple of months after my 79th birthday, during the hottest, most unpleasant month of the summer, I'm going to kick the bucket. The Death Clock is one of the places I came across while looking for web sites to ask for links to my new book, "Waiting for My Cats to Die." You spend a few years getting a book out, you want people to read it. There are millions of people on the Web, they say. Perhaps I can corral a few of them to the web site I created for my book. The key is finding the right places to ask for a link. My book is about single life with my diabetic cats, death, music, and television, specifically, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, so I've been looking around to find the most promising death, cats, and Buffy sites.

The Death Clock didn't have a place for links, so I went to a web site called Find a Grave. Before investigating possible links, I typed in my name to find all the Stacy Horns buried in America. There aren't any. But I found a Baby Horn who was born and died on July 2, 1932, and was buried in Saint George City Cemetery in Utah, and an S. Horn who died on February 4, 1863, and was buried in Memphis National Cemetery in Tennessee. But I didn't find a place for links.

I went to the official site for Buffy the Vampire Slayer. They had a library and a links section, but they don't connect to anything outside their own site.

I spent a day looking at cat sites and cat cams (live camera feeds) and asked for a link at one of my favorites, but she said no, she could never link to a book with a title like mine, regardless of the content. The people at the web site for Cats magazine actually took the time to look at my site and make suggestions for improvement. They were most interested in the fact that I said I was planning to install a cat cam myself, so I went to a site that promised information about setting one up.

The owner of the site was asleep on her bed for all to see -- it was maybe 8am, and she is clearly not a morning person like me. It was weird watching her, but I enjoyed following her cats' movements from spot to spot on the bed as I browsed the very useful information on her site.

I got what I needed. Tomorrow I'll figure out what I have to buy and get started. Then anyone in the world will have the pleasure of watching my cats...sleep.

--Stacy Horn

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2002

    Impressively heartfelt

    I cant imagine reading this book and not wanting to be Stacy Horn's friend. Stacy is extremely genuwine and honest about everything she feels. Reading her book was a breath of fresh air. From Death and Romance to Cats, Stacy writes from the heart in a way that makes everyone feel at home.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2001

    I laughed, I Cried

    Stacy is a brilliant writer. Smart, funny and honest, she draws you in and keeps you entertained for the whole ride. Her stories are so moving and her perseptions so keen, they stay with you long after you've finished the book. A must read for anyone with a heart.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2001

    Great Book

    I absolutly love this book! I find myself reading it multiple times, feeling like if I read a certain chapter or paragraph again, there would be something new written that wasn't there before. Stacy Horn's writing style is straight-forward and humorous. Reading it will leave you with an appreciation for at least one thing she talks about. Whether it's manhatten samba drummers, green-dot kitties, or even life itself. This book is definitely worth it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2001

    I loved this book

    I loved this book. I came home, exhausted, expecting only to skim a chapter or two. Instead, I couldn't put it down. I stayed up all night reading it. It is charming, alarming, funny, poignant, and riveting. Stacy Horn is a gifted writer for our times.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2001

    I love this book

    'Waiting for my cats...' is so brilliant and funny, it's destined to be a cult classic. It's quirky, heart-rending, imaginative, and black-edged with wit. Give it a chance. You won't be sorry.

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